The rule of thumb for folks walking around Boston is to not look anyone in the eyes unless it is absolutely necessary.
The World’s Biggest Eye Contact Experiment held on Saturday challenged people in the city and across the world to break down their walls and to actually make full eye contact with another human being for a full minute.
It was a sunny day with chairs, yoga mats and blankets laid out on the Boston Common as participants invited others to have meaningful staring sessions. Sixty full seconds looking into a stranger’s eyes without conversation or facial expressions to hide behind.
Sure it sounds easy enough, but silently sharing eye contact with a stranger can be a foreign feeling for many people more used to being connected to technology than humans. Deborah Knight, who organized Boston’s event, said that eye contact is actually more important than most people think.
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“When you actually look at someone’s eyes, you actually bypass everything and you get into their soul. It is an unspoken language of love.
The global social experiment is organized each year by The Liberators International, an Australian-based group that aims to empower people with love and compassion through events and media. Boston was just one of the hundreds of locations participating this year.
Dozens of people just sitting silently and staring, but most would talk and laugh right after the exercise.
Participant Maleeka said she joined in the eye contact experiment to make a connection with people who may feel isolated and need a human connection. She said that looking into another person’s eyes for even a short amount of time can reveal many hidden feelings.
“I’ve seen pain, I’ve seen laughter, I’ve seen happiness. I’ve seen a little bit of everything.”
Another participant, Ayman, was just walking home when he was offered a chance to look a stranger in the eye and connect. He liked the experience of really connecting with other humans so much that he decided to stay for a few hours.
Ayman recently moved to Boston and hasn’t had much of a chance to have that sort of connection with someone in the city. It can be off-putting at first, but he soon would see people open up right in front of his eyes.
“With everyone, maybe the first couple seconds that you are looking at them, maybe the first twenty maybe the first thirty, people are really hesitant. Everyone is kind of stiff. You look into their eyes and are not too sure what you are seeing. Maybe thirty seconds into it, people relax and their eyes just open up.”
Knight, who works as a life coach, believes that little experiences like this can really make a difference in people’s lives.
“We can make this world a better place, it does just start with one person. Don’t think you are too small to this because it is a ripple effect.”